So, you know that feeling you get, when your best friends from high school — who formed a band and are still playing together, and who you haven't seen in a couple years — show up in Vermont in a rented car to play a gig in Winooski at the tail end of a micro-tour of Canada? Yeah, well that's exactly how I felt Sunday night when I saw The Figgs at The Monkey House. They rocked so fucking hard that I felt the earth shake under my feet. Or was that my heart pounding with excitement? Either way, it was a night to remember.
These guys know how to work a room, even when technical difficulties threaten to shut the whole thing down. The show was industrial-strength from the get-go, starting with a trio of songs from their most recent record Follow Jean Through The Sea ("Breaking Through These Gates," "Let Me Hold You" and "Hobble Skirt In Erie"). The band was super tight, and within seconds all eyes were glued to the stage. There was no set-list that I could see; guitarist Mike Gent would just shoot a knowing glance at his band-mates and then launch into the next song. The crowd was bopping along to the music and everybody was having a good time. And that's when things started to go south.
Namely, a stage monitor that was squealing feedback like a pig being brought to slaughter. Until this point the monitor had been emitting little yelps of distress whenever Gent got close to his mike. He kept trying to get the sound guy's attention and pointing to the speaker, but the hubbub continued. Finally the offending black wedge erupted in a fury of noise that put a hurt on everyone's ears, and the band came to a stop mid-song (the song was "Waiting For The Sun To Rise", and I was bummed they didn't get to finish it). Gent was visibly upset, and bass player Pete Donnelly diplomatically suggested turning all the monitors down. The sound dude came out and futzed with the controls a little and then went back to his perch. The band tore into a spontaneous version of their song "Somethings Wrong," and Gent had a little fun with the chorus ("somethings wrong...with my monitor"). Everything seemed back to normal and the band was really starting to cook again when the feedback suddenly came back with a vengeance, screaming like Rob Halford with his balls in a vice. At that point, Gent lost it and in a moment of passion he kicked the speaker off its dinky little milk crate, sending it spinning into the crowd. He turned his back to the audience and then finished the song singing into Donnelly's mike. It was the most rock and roll moment I have witnessed in a very long time, maybe ever.
But they didn't let it ruin the show. They brushed it off and made the most of the situation, like the professionals that they are. Gent strapped on his acoustic and decided to bring it down a few notches while the sound guy hopefully worked out the kinks. They played a bunch of quieter songs and eventually worked back up to full-on electric, climaxing with the Chuck Berry-on-steroids vibe of "Dance Lesson." The feedback never returned and they played late into the evening, blasting out two encores for the hardcore few who stayed 'til the end, including a solo a cappella song by drummer Pete "Casino" Hayes and a Sabbathesque version of Neil Young's "The Loner."